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If any one will notice closely a sentence as uttered in private conversation, he will observe, that scarcely two successive words are pronounced in exactly the same tone. At the same time, however, there is a certain pitch or key, which seems, on the whole, to prevail
. This key note or governing note, as it may be called, is that upon which the voice most frequently dwells, to which it usually returns when wearied, and upon which a sentence generally commences, and very frequently ends, while, at the same time, there is a considerable play of the voice above and below it.
This note may be high or low. It varies in different individuals, and at different times in the same individual, being governed by the nature of the subject, and the emotions of the speaker. The range of the voice above and below this note, is called its compass. When the speaker is animated, this range is great; but upon abstract subjects, and with a dull, lifeless speaker, it is small. If, in reading or speaking, too high á note be chosen, the lungs wilí soon become wearied ; if too low a pitch be selected, there is danger of indistinctness of utterance; and, in either case, there is less room for variety of toné, than if one be taken between the two extremes.
On this point, let the following rule be observed.
RULE 1.—The reader or speaker should choose that pitch, in which he can feel himself most at ease, and above and below which he may have most room for variation.
Having chosen the proper key note, he should beware of confining himself to it. This constitutes monotony, one of the greatest faults in elocution. One very important instrument for giving expression and life to thought, is thus lost, and the hearer soon becomes wearied and disgusted.
There is another fault of nearly equal magnitude, and of very frequent occurrence. This consists in varying the tones without any rule or guide. In cases of this kind, there seems to be a desire to cultivate variety of tone, without a knowledge of the
principles upon which it should be done. Sometimes, also, there is a kind of regular variation, but still not connected with the sense. A sentence is commenced with vehemence, and in a high tone, and the voice gradually sinks, word by word, until, the breath being spent, and the lungs exhausted, it dies away at the close in a whisper.
The habit of sing-song, so common in reading poetry, as it is a variation of tone without reference to the sense, is a species of the fault above mentioned.
If the reader or speaker is guided by the sense, and if he gives that emphasis, inflection, and expression, required by the meaning, these faults will speedily disappear.
The tones of the voice should vary, also, in quantity or expression, according to the nature of the subject. We notice, very plainly, a difference between the soft, insinuating tones of persuasion; the full, strong voice of command and decision; the harsh, irregular, and sometimes grating explosion of the sounds of passion; the plaintive notes of sorrow and pity; and the equable and unimpassioned flow of words in argumentative style. In dialogue, common sense teaches, that the manner and tones of the supposed speaker should be imitated. In all varieties of style, this is equally proper, for the reader is but repeating the language of another, and the full meaning of this can not be conveyed, unless uttered with that expression which we may suppose the author would have given to it, or in other words, which the subject itself demands. The following direction, upon this point, is worthy of attention.
RULE II. — The tones of the voice should always correspond with the nature of the subject.
If the following extracts are all read in the same tone and manner, and then read again with the expression appropriate to each, the importance of this point can not fail to be, at once, perceived.
“Come back! come back!” he cries with grief,
“ Across the stormy water,
My daughter! oh, my daughter!”
I must not look to have. A very great portion of this globe is covered with water, which is called the sea, and is very distinct from rivers and lakes.
Burned Marmion's swarthy cheek like fire,
And—“This to me?” he said;
To cleave the Douglas' head!
I tell thee, thou 'rt defied !
Lord Angus, thou hast lied !"
In our attempt to imitate nature it is important to avoid affectation, for, to this fault, even perfect monotony is preferable.
To improve the voice in all these respects, practice is necessary. To increase its compass or range of notes, commence, for example, with the lowest pitch the voice can comfortably sound, and repeat whole paragraphs and pages upon that key. Then rise one note higher, and practice on that, in the same way, then another, and so on, until the highest pitch of the voice is reached. The strength of the voice may be increased in the same way, by practicing with different degrees of loudness, from a whisper to full rotundity, taking care to keep the voice on the same key. The same note in music may be sounded loud or soft. So, also, a sentence may be pronounced on the same pitch with different degrees of loudness. Having practiced with different degrees of loudness on one key, make the same experiment on another, and then on another, and
It will be found, that the voice is capable of being changed and improved by exercise and practice to a much greater degree than is generally supposed.
QUESTIONS.—What is meant by the key note? Is this the same at all times, and in all individuals? What circumstances cause it to differ? What is meant by compass of voice? Under what circumstances is this range great? When is it small? If too high a key note be selected, what is the consequence? If the note be too low, what danger is there? What is the rule on this subject? What is monotony? What are the evils arising from this fault? What other faults of tone are mentioned? What manner of reading poetry is mentioned? How are these faults to be corrected? What is said with regard to varying the tones in quality or expression? What is said of the reading of dialogues, &c.? Repeat the second Rule. What must be guarded against in attempts to imitate nature? How may
the voice be improved in compass? How, in strength?
SECTION I V.
I. NATURE OF INFLECTIONS. INFLECTIONS are slides of the voice upward or downward. Of these there are two. One is called the rising inflection, in which the voice slides upward, and is marked thus (); as, Did you walk'? The other is called the falling inflection, in which the voice slides downward, and is marked thus ( ); as, I did not walk'. They are both exhibited in the following question : Did you walk', or did you ride'? In pronouncing the word walk in this question, the voice slides upward. On the contrary, the voice slides downward, in pronouncing the word ride'. This is sometimes exhibited in the following way of writing the words : Did you It is important that these inflections should be familiar to the ear of the learner. In the following questions, the first member has the rising, and the second member, the falling inflection.
Is he sick', or is he well?
Did he act properly', or improperly ?* In the following answers to those questions, the inflections are used in a contrary order, the first member terminating with the falling, and the second, with the rising inflection.
He is well", not sick'.
improperly'. These slides of the voice are sometimes very slight, so as to be scarcely perceptible, but at other times, when the words are
* These questions and similar ones, with their answers, should be repeatedly pronounced with their proper inflections, until the distinetion between the rising and falling inflection is well understood and easily made by the learner. He will be assisted in this, by emphasizing strongly the word inflected ; thus, Did you ride' or did you walk" ?
pronourced in an animated tone, and strongly emphasized, the voice passes upward or downward, through several notes. This will readily be perceived, by pronouncing the above questions or answers with a strong emphasis.
QUESTIONS.—What are inflections? How does the voice slide in the rising inflection? How, in the falling? Explain their use in the question given as an example. Explain the different inflections, in the questions, commencing with, “Is he sick', or is he well\?" Explain them, in the answers to these questions. Are these inflections always very plainly perceived? When are they most readily perceived ?
II. FALLING INFLECTION.
Rule I. — The falling inflection is generally proper, wherever the sense is complete; as,
Truth is more wonderful than fiction'.
By industry we obtain wealth'. The falling of the voice at the close of a sentence is sometimes called a cadence, and properly speaking, there is a slight difference between it and the falling inflection, but for all practical purposes they may be considered as one and the same. It is of some importance, and requires attention to be able to close 4 sentence gracefully. The ear, however, is the best guide on this point.
Parts of a sentence often make complete sense in themselves, and in this case, unless qualified or restrained by the succeeding clause, or unless the contrary is indicated by some other principle, the falling inflection takes place, according to the rule; as,
Truth is wonderful', even more so than fiction'.
Men generally die as they live', and by their lives we must judge of their character.
By industry we obtain wealth', and persevering exertion will seldom be unrewarded.
Exception. When a sentence concludes with a negative clause, or with a contrast or comparison, (called also antithesis), member of which requires the falling inflection, it must close with the rising inflection. See Rule VI, and 29, Note. Examples:
No one desires to be thought a fool'.
I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise' him. If we care not for others', we ought at least to respect ourselves'
He lives in England', not in France'.